The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling

There once was an ugly duckling
With feathers all stubby and brown
And the other birds said in so many words
Get out of town
Get out, get out, get out of town

Bobby Mason knew that he was in trouble as soon as he walked into the School Playground.
A reception party was waiting for him. At least 10 other boys were lined up with their arms crossed blocking his entry to the school.

“Well, if it isn’t the grass, the little snitch. Think you are so good then pretty boy?. What do we do to people who grass us up to the Pigs?” said Nick Atherton, the ringleader.

“We kill them,” said another gleefully.

“Then we eat them…” added a third.

“I didn’t grass you up.”

“How else do you explain my arrest for kicking the hell out of you eh? You little ponce.”

“The police said they have you on CCTV.”

“Bollocks. You grassed us up. So pretty boy, what is it to be eh? Your face or your body?”

Bobby stopped and waited for the inevitable attack to come his way. This was just a normal day for him ever since they’d found him wearing his sister’s knickers a month or so before.

The family washing machine had broken down and he’d run out of clean underpants. No amount of explaining could save him from a beating. This was repeated almost every few days. Then they did it ‘just for the hell of it’ and ‘because we can’.

As for the school? Despite their words about bullying no action was taken despite his complaints.

Today was going to be no different.

They didn’t wait for him to reply.

“The face it is. You won’t be so pretty after today.”

As he got up from the floor and dusted himself down after they’d got bored with kicking him he said to himself, ‘One of these days you are going to get your come-uppance’.

He held a handkerchief to his bloody and this time broken nose and walked out of school and straight to the Hospital. He knew the routine by now. The people at the Hospital knew him and that they had to call the Police as well as his parents.

And he went with a quack and a waddle and a quack
In a flurry of eiderdown
That poor little ugly duckling
Went wandering far and near
But at every place they said to his face
Now get out, get out, get out of here
And he went with a quack and a waddle and a quack
And a very unhappy tear

[15 years later]

All through the wintertime he hid himself away
Ashamed to show his face, afraid of what others might say
All through the winter in his lonely clump of wheat
Till a flock of swans spied him there and very soon agreed
You’re a very fine swan indeed!
A swan? Me a swan? Ah, go on!
And he said yes, you’re a swan
Take a look at yourself in the lake and you’ll see
And he looked, and he saw, and he said
I am a swan! Wheeeeeeee!

“Good Morning Derek. How are we today?” asked the leggy blonde who’d just walked into the office.

“Fine as usual Roberta.”

“Good. Now what’s new today?”

“Just the usual. Six serious cases with charges pending for you to review.”

“Oh well. I’d better review them and pass them next door if we want to proceed.”

Derek, the Crown Prosecution Clerk handed the case files to the newest member of the CPS Team.

“Coffee?” asked Derek.

“Yes please. By the size of these files, it looks like a two cup morning.”

“Don’t forget you are due at the Strand[1] at one.”

“I know. How they granted him leave to appeal is beyond me.”

An hour later Roberta picked up the last and by far the thickest case file. As she did so, she let out a little groan at it’s weight.

As soon as she opened the file she froze stiff.

After a few seconds she let out an expletive, quietly.


“What was that Roberta?” asked Derek.

“Sorry. I should not have said anything. I’m so sorry.”

She knew that she’d struggle to review this case objectively. The CPS had to remain objective but this one was going to be really hard.

For several minutes, she just looked at the first page of the file. Memories of the past came flooding back to her. She’d know that this was a possibility when she’d accepted this job but not so soon.

In the end she decided that she couldn’t be objective enough to do the review properly.

“I’m taking one this upstairs,” she said to Derek as she picked up the file and headed for the door.

“Anything wrong? You went as white as a sheet when you opened the file.”

“A bit of previous with the accused,” replied Roberta through gritted teeth.

Derek nodded back his understanding. If a reviewer had experience with a possible defendant from previous cases they could hand the case off to another lawyer. This removed any chance of bias in the decision about proceeding with the case or not.

[A week later]

“This file has come back,” said Derek as he and Roberta had their thrice weekly review session.

Roberta took one look at the thick file and immediately knew who’s file it was.

“What is the status of it?” asked Roberta.

“He’s been remanded to appear at Southwark tomorrow morning. It’s Number three on the list so you have better go straight there from home.”

Roberta gave a big sigh.
“So I’m to prosecute it then?” she asked wearily.

“It looks that way,” said Derek looking at the CPS Notes on the cover of the folder.

Then to Derek’s surprise she answered,
“Good. It will be good to give him something back. God knows he deserves it. I’m going to prepare for the case tomorrow at home.”

“There really is no need. He is sure to get committed to the Bailey.”

“No sense in leaving anything to chance now is there? If there is anyone who deserves to be banged up for a good long time, it is this scumbag.”

He couldn’t argue with that. He’d read the charge sheet and the record of the accused. It was not a pretty read.

Roberta arrived at the Court in plenty of time for the case. Normally these remand hearings were brief but this was one time that she was not going to let the accused get away. She went into the robing room where she commandeered a locker. She went through the ritual of hanging up her coat and removing her Barristers Robes from the suit carrier that she’d brought with her.

With the robe properly positioned on her lithe body, the smiled as she opened the wig box and removed her wig. She’d prepared it with talc the night before.

After a bit of preening in front of the mirror, she was ready. She knew she looked good and mostly she felt good.

Roberta slipped into the courtroom just as the first remand case of the day was finishing.

Normally, she would just sit and think about her case but today, she was alert and keenly watching the people in the court and especially those in the Public Gallery.

All too soon, it was time for her case.
The defendant was led into the dock and flanked by two burly officers. This was normally done only when the accused had been violent since their arrest.

“Roberta Mason for the CPS,” said Roberta to the Magistrate.

“Ms Mason, I’ve not seen you up before me before.”

“No Judge. Snaresbrook is my normal beat.”
“Ah. Well, don’t just stand there. What is the case for remand?”

“Nicholas Atherton is charged with Attempted Murder. His alleged victim is a Seventy-Five Year-old Widow living alone in New Cross Gate. Mr Atherton was disturbed while ransacking her home. His alleged victim is in hospital with extensive injuries including a broken nose, jaw and femur and some internal injuries.”

Roberta swallowed.

“Mr Atherton was apprehended by the Police after a car chase that lasted more than thirty miles during which he apparently exceeded speeds of one hundred miles an hour and caused three other vehicles including two Police Cars to crash. In the end, his vehicle crashed when trying to navigate a roundabout on the A2, the wrong way. He then took off on foot over the fields near Gravesend. The Kent Police used Air Support to track him. Mr Atherton was cornered in a farmyard. During his arrest there was a struggle and one of the arresting officers received two stab wounds to the stomach and extensive facial injuries in the resulting melee. The officer is in intensive care and may not work again. Since his arrest he has allegedly assaulted two prison officers. The Crown therefore requests remand in custody.”

The judge turned to the council for the defence.

“Mr Sinclair? Do you have any disagreement with what Ms Mason has said?”

“No Sir,” said John Sinclair, the Barrister acting for the defence.

“And the subject of bail?”

“Sir, we request bail.”

“After the episodes detailed by Ms Mason?”

“Yes Sir.”

The judge thought for about a second before answering.

“My decision is that the accused will be remanded without bail and committed for trial at the Old Bailey. The CPS will notify you of the scheduled date. Take the prisoner down.”

That was it. Stage One was over.

[Seven Months later]

“How is the trial going Roberta?” asked Derek when she returned to the CPS offices after the fifth day of the trial.

“So far so good. Now it is the turn of the defence. Apparently they are only going to call the defendant. We really got the jury on our side with the testimony of DS Cummings. Even when the defence tried to accuse him of trying to pull a fast one over his injuries and he presented them with a medical report detailing his internal injuries. That shut them up pronto.”

“What excuse will he give for his fingerprints being on the cricket bat that he beat that poor old woman with?”

“I really have no idea. It had better be a good one. Why don’t you come along tomorrow?”

Derek grinned back at her. “Perhaps I will.”

Roberta was at court very early the next day. She’d hardly slept at all the previous night. Her normal calm persona was full of excitement and anticipation.

As expected, the accused was the only witness to be called. His testimony was one of wailing and misfortune. Roberta had to bite her lip to stop herself from shouting ‘Yes’ at the top of her voice.

Just after Lunch, it was her turn.

“Mr Atherton, we have heard a tale of woe and misfortune from you today. To be honest, it would have probably made you more money in book form than you have ever made from a life of crime. It seems that you are here now just because and I quote, ‘It was everyone else’s fault and not yours’. Does that sum up your testimony from earlier?”

“Yes, but what?”

“Mr Atherton, you said that you had a hard time at school and that is why you are in the Dock here today charged with some very serious offences. Why was your life at school harder than anyone else?”

“Objection. What has that to do with the case?” said Mr Sampson for the defence.

The judge smiled.

“Mr Sampson, you did bring up the subject of the accused school days. Overruled.”

“As I was saying, you said you had a hard time at school. Why was that? Is it not true that you were a bully at school? Furthermore, is it not true that one of your victims was a boy named Robert Mason? And that you used to get your kicks out of beating him up and to quote you directly ‘I’m gonna keep on beating you up just because I can’. Is this true?”

The realism of his situation started to sink in.

The Judge had gotten a little confused.

“Ms Mason? Is this Robert Mason in someway related to you? You do know the rules on hearsay?”

“Yes sir. I do know the rules. I am more than related to the person I described. I was once called Robert Mason and the accused did beat me up almost every week in my final years at school. I am merely trying to show that Mr Atherton has a proven history of violence going back at fifteen years. I have the physical scars on my body to prove it.”

The Judge did a double take for a second. Then he smiled.

“Thank you Ms Mason. What you have said is most unusual and very dramatic. I suppose that you can verify your claims?”

“Yes Sir. The last time I was beaten, it was all captured on the school CCTV. This was used to get Mr Atherton expelled from School and other things that can’t be admitted into evidence. It can be supplied if needed.”

“Thank you Ms Mason. I don’t think we will need it. Please continue.”

Roberta turned to the witness.

“Now Mr Atherton. How can you account for your fingerprints being on the blade and handle of the cricket bat you used to beat Mrs Harper with when she discovered you in her front room? Remember that we have heard testimony that the bat in question had been in her house for many years and the last person to use it was her husband when he played for Surrey County Cricket Club. So what is it to be Mr Atherton?”

The witness had now had time to register what had just gone on in front of him.

“You! I’ll kill you. I should have done it all those years ago. I knew that you were a fairy and a queer.”

“Mr Atherton. Enough of that. Please answer the question,” said the Judge.

The defendant glared at the Judge.

“I can’t explain how they got there. Perhaps they were put there by the pigs. They will do anything to get a conviction. Perhaps it was you who fitted me up?” he said pointing at Ms Mason.

“I wouldn’t put it past you to resort to falsifying evidence just to get one back on me?”

He was clearly playing to the jury.

Ms Mason just smiled and continued.

“Now Mr Atherton, you were pursued by the Police for several hours. Why did you not stop when requested by Officers? And how can you account for a number of items that were recovered from your car and that have already been entered in evidence and not challenged by your legal team. All of those items belonged to Mrs Harper?”


“Mr Atherton, it is quite simple. You were caught red-handed with items stolen from Mrs Harper. How do you account for them being in your possession?”

“I found them.”

“Please Mr Atherton. Do you think that the jury is going to be fooled like that? Mrs Harper used her alarm to summon the police right after you left her home. The car that you were in was clearly seen on CCTV leaving the street where she lives less than two minutes after the alarm was raised. You were then tracked by CCTV until the Police took over the pursuit. You really did not have time to find anything did you? Please explain that one away?”

“It wasn’t me. I’m being fitted up.”

“Now I’d like to turn my questioning to the incident that took place at the time of your arrest. I’m talking about your stabbing of DS Cummings. In your plea at the start of the trial you denied the charge of Attempted Murder of DS Cummings. We have seen the Video footage of the incident. Do you still deny the charges?”

“Too right I do. The pig was about to tazer me. It was self-defence pure and simple.”

And so it went on for more than an hour until the judge intervened.

“Ms Mason, are you going to be finished with the witness today or do you want to continue tomorrow morning?” asked the Judge.

“Two more questions and I will be done.”

“Very good, you may proceed.”

“Mr Atherton, just to recap. You have denied being in the home of Mrs Harper at any time in the past. You have denied robbing her and that you found the items stolen yet you had time to do that in the very short time before the Police arrived on the scene and you fled. In that case, how do you account for Mrs Harper’s DNA being found under your fingernails. I am sure that your legal team has showed you this evidence. How about it Mr Atherton? How do you account for the DNA?”

“As I said, it was put there by the Police. I didn’t do this. I’m being fitted up by the police.

“Come on now Mr Atherton. We have seen the CCTV evidence that clearly shows you entering the block of flats where your victim lived. It also shows you leaving carrying the bag that contained the items you stole. This is the same bag that you were caught with at the time of your arrest. This is the same bag that has been entered into evidence. I have to ask you, how did the Police fit you up as you say. All the evidence points to your guilt.”

He glared at Ms Mason. Then her wiped his finger across his neck imitating the act of cutting someone’s throat, her throat.

Ms Mason smiled back at him.

“I am sure that the jury saw that answer. Let it go on record that the defendant signified that he’d like to kill me by slitting my throat. As it is now a matter of public record I'd like to remind the defendant that any attempt on my life will come back to you. I have to ask you, 'am I worth it', as you have said before this court, I am nothing more than a queer and a fairy. Only you can answer that not me not anyone else here.”

The Judge didn’t object nor did the counsel for the defence. He just put his head in his hands.

“I am finished with this witness,” said Ms Mason and sat down.

The judge called a halt to the proceedings for the day after stating that closing arguments would be presented at 10:00am the following morning.

I’m not such an ugly duckling
No feathers all stubby and brown
For in fact these birds in so many words said
The best in town, the best, the best
The best in town

When she returned to the office, she sat down exhausted. Derek came in smiling.

“Oh Roberta. You were so brave. To expose your past like that.”

“Thanks Derek. It needed to be done.”

“The Boss wants to see you.”

“This won’t be good. Thanks Derek, it has been nice working with you,” said Roberta fearing the worst.

Derek just smiled back as she left the office.

Roberta took the lift up to the next floor. She normally took the stairs but today… she couldn’t be bothered. She was tired both physically and mentally. The trial had taken more out of her than she'd imagined.

For some reason, her Boss’s door was closed. He never closed it. Undeterred, she entered and was suddenly confronted by the whole CPS Team.

They all burst into applause. Word had got round about her disclosure in Court. All of her colleagues had stayed behind to congratulate her.

Not a quack, not a quack, not a waddle or a quack
But a glide and a whistle and a snowy white back
And a head so noble and high
Say who’s an ugly duckling?
Not I!
Not I!

The jury returned a guilty verdict late the following day. It took them less than half an hour. The judge passed a sentence of ‘life’ with a recommendation that he must serve at least twenty-five years before being eligible for parole.

Ms Mason went about the place with a huge grin on her face for the next six months.

[The End]

[1] ‘The Strand’ is the location of the High Court. Located right on the edge of the City Of London. This is NOT the ‘Old Bailey’ which is the Central Criminal Court.

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